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Volunteers not covered by HR law

BY John Wilson
Employment Law & HR
BG Purple

A recent case of the Court of Appeal, X v Mid Sussex Citizens Advice Bureau, has confirmed that volunteers are not covered by the provisions of the Equality Act 2010. 

In this case, which was brought under the Disability HR Act 1995 (now replaced by the 2010 Act), the volunteer argued that she was employed by the CAB or alternatively was on a work placement.  The Tribunal, EAT and finally the Court of Appeal all agreed that she was not covered by the protections offered by HR legislation.  As a volunteer, the Claimant had signed a ‘volunteer agreement’ described ‘binding in honour only’ and was not subject to any sanction when she chose to change her working pattern which amounted to 4 or 5 hours a week.

This decision will come as a welcome relief for organisations who utilise volunteers, particularly CABx.  One note of caution, as the Court of Appeal observed, is that volunteers come in a variety of guises and the mere fact that someone is termed a volunteer does not necessarily determine whether or not they will be afforded the protections offered by The Equality Act.

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